Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Review: Girl Last Seen by Nina Laurin

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pub. Date: June 20th, 2017
Pages: 352

Genre: Fiction / Psychological Suspense / Thriller / Mystery


Two missing girls. Thirteen years apart.

Olivia Shaw has been missing since last Tuesday. She was last seen outside the entrance of her elementary school in Hunts Point wearing a white spring jacket, blue jeans, and pink boots.

I force myself to look at the face in the photo, into her slightly smudged features, and I can't bring myself to move. Olivia Shaw could be my mirror image, rewound to thirteen years ago.

If you have any knowledge of Olivia Shaw's whereabouts or any relevant information, please contact...

I've spent a long time peering into the faces of girls on missing posters, wondering which one replaced me in that basement. But they were never quite the right age, the right look, the right circumstances. Until Olivia Shaw, missing for one week tomorrow.

Whoever stole me was never found. But since I was taken, there hasn't been another girl.

And now there is.

What Did I Think About the Story?

Girl Last Seen is such a unique thriller. The story opens up with Laine Moreno (born Ella Santos but having changed her name after the horrible experiences she had under that name) sort of floating through life, trying not to make connections or long-term commitments but being satisfied with menial work that requires very little from her. She's been covering up  her obvious PTSD with drugs and alcohol, always keeping one eye on the door and the other on the missing children's posters, waiting for her abductor - who was never caught - to strike again. Then he does and Laine's life is irrevocably changed forever. While most of this is highlighted in the synopsis above what isn't made clear is just how twisty and tormented Laine's story is and just how painful a journey it will be before the reader turns that last page.

Laine is such a wonderfully complicated character and unlike any other narrator I've come across before. So often with these sorts of thrillers it seems the victim/main character is a middle-class (or higher) white woman who has an adequate amount of resources and support as she navigates whatever dangers her story presents. Not Laine. She's a young Hispanic woman who grew up poor and unloved by her mother, who's disappearance when she was kidnapped as a ten-year-old went unknown for some time because her mother had been arrested and no one was looking after her. Years later, when we meet Laine on the day she discovers Olivia Shaw has been kidnapped, she's living in a squalid apartment and making herself numb to all the buried hurt and horror she has inside with drugs, working two jobs just to pay for this sad little life. She's treated like dirt and, even worse, like some sort of criminal when the police come looking for her help in trying to find Olivia. Given the life she's had it's not surprising that Laine has issues with authority and lashes out at others, more often than not hurting herself in the process. She's a fighter and a survivor but also a very vulnerable person who needs understand and care as much as anything else. I absolutely loved her even when I sometimes wished I could shake her into not doing something stupid.

I also loved how twisty the plot was and how so many of these twists are sort of casually dropped within normal narration or dialogue to be picked up by the reader. I can't really go into any of the twists as it would ruin so much enjoyment, but I will say that, while I had an inkling for some of what was eventually revealed, the ending had me completely stumped. I absolutely love when that happens!

I should warn those thinking about reading Girl Last Seen that it can get quite gritty and dark. There are a lot of horrible things happening to some of these characters, some of which involves children, and there is heavy profanity throughout as well. This in no way bothered me during reading - to be honest I think it brought the story home and made it feel quite realistic given the story I was reading - but I do like to warn others as I know this bothers some reader a lot.

Girl Last Seen is a quick-paced psychological suspense/thriller with plenty of turns to keep even the most discerning fan of the genre entertained and guessing. It's not an easy story to envelop yourself in by any means, but it's a poignant one and one I think needs to be told. There are more women than I would care to venture a guess at who have experienced the kinds of horrors than Laine has but, given their poverty and background, haven't gotten the help or even understanding they deserved. I'm very interested to see what Nina Laurin writes next.  

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I think it's perfect for this story! It's stark and bleak, with little adornment or flashy colors. The woman on the front is barely even there, which is perfect as Laine expresses numerous times that no one really sees her and most people would rather not even acknowledge her. She's also figuratively twisted up inside given her experiences, so it's pretty accurate to show her physically twisted up with the branches. All in all a great cover to represent the story!

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Thank you to Tiffany Sanchez and
Grand Central Publishing for a free copy of Girl Last Seen in exchange for an honest review! Continue below for more information about the book, the author, and where you can purchase a copy.

Praise for Girl Last Seen


Debut novelist Nina Laurin has created a memorable character in complicated, flawed and endearing Laine Moreno. From the very first page, GIRL LAST SEEN jettisons the reader into the life of a crime victim trying to outrun her past. Fast-paced and hard-edged, it is a heart-stopping thriller that had me guessing to the very end.” —Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and Not a Sound

"GIRL LAST SEEN hooked me so quickly I might have whiplash. This is a sharp, twisting, intense thriller, the heartbreaking and fast-paced story of a woman who bears the scars of a trip to hell and back but who refuses to be defeated. Don't miss this smashing debut! —David Bell, bestselling author of Bring Her Home

"Girl Last Seen gripped me from start to finish. Lainey Moreno is a riveting heroine, a kidnapping survivor who will only escape her demons if she faces her greatest fears, and Nina Laurin brings her vividly to life. Psychological suspense doesn't come much grittier or more packed with satisfying twists and turns.” —Meg Gardiner, Edgar Award-winning author of Unsub

"Laurin creates a compelling, vulnerable central character.” —Publisher’s Weekly

Buy the Book


About the Author 


Nina Laurin is a bilingual (English/French) author of suspenseful stories for both adults and young adults. She got her BA in Creative Writing at Concordia University, in her hometown of Montreal, Canada.
Learn more about Nina on her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. This sounds amazing, I will definitely check it out. Thank you for the review!